Written by: Head Varsity Baseball Coach, John Flickinger
Zoom interview: https://youtu.be/iYSJS5sVmFg
COVID-19 has taken our world by storm in a more unprecedented way than I think many ever imagined. It has left families to deal with tragedy, many to be laid off from their jobs, schools to switch over to distance learning, and social distancing regulations that may make you feel uncomfortable to be around anyone other than your immediate family.
In the wake of this pandemic, it also left some disappointed senior’s from many school districts, who were hoping to spend their last few months of school making ‘last’ memories of their high school days.
There are many stories out there about these young men and women who are ready to embark on their next journey, but my story today is about one Derry Area High School senior in specific, Austin Siko.
Austin was getting ready for his final days as a high school student, and he had many plans. His favorite sport baseball was two weeks into the season, and he couldn’t wait to get going after all the hard work he put in the off-season. Austin was also looking forward to the high school bachelor auction, in which monies are raised and given to the ‘Make-A-Wish Foundation. Something the school and community looks forward to each year. He was also going to attend his first prom, and of course, the thought of walking across the stage at graduation whether it be inside or out, seemed just days away from him.
Then….the Corona Virus pandemic changed everything.
I recently had a lengthy zoom chat with Austin that I would invite you all to please view at https://youtu.be/iYSJS5sVmFg. I am truly glad we had this chat because I felt this young man, at the very least, deserves to have a senior salute, as do so many others.
Austin was not only a leader both on and off the baseball field, but also in the classroom and the community, and I believe that needs to be recognized. His dedication to family, school and community, to go along with his character, is something COVID-19 cannot take away.
He was a three-year letter winner in baseball, and was an outstanding defensive catcher. His batting average all three years stayed consistently around .300 and more importantly, he was always striving to become better. His baseball talents were many, but Austin also had success on the soccer fields during his days at DAHS, and he also played basketball, and decided this year to help out the wrestling team, who was looking for someone to fill their line-up card. Austin gladly accepted, despite not wrestling since he was in grade school. He may have taken some lumps at times, but said it was worth it, and he was glad that he did it. That was echoed from his head coach Mike Weinell. Personally, it was my distinct pleasure to be Austin’s head baseball coach for the past four years.
Sports and all of the memories that go along with athletics were always a big part of Austin’s life, and you can hear a whole lot more about that in our zoom interview, but one thing that stuck out to me in our conversation was how much he enjoyed his education and loved the hours of community service he provided.
Austin will be attending Thiel College in the fall, and his major will be Accounting. He credited all of his teachers for helping him on his journey and finishing with a 4.0 GPA. His love for accounting came from one of the teachers he credits most for his success, and that is Mrs. Deborah Bushey. In our interview, he says “I could not have done this without her.”
Austin was also a member of several clubs throughout his school days, and his favorite was the interact club. He added that “seeing kids have smiles on their faces'” was rewarding to him. Santa’s workshop and food bank and Make-A-Wish were two of several he mentioned during our chat. He also told me that he once joined the chess club and won the championship in the Christmas tournament. I never pictured him running the chessboard, but I found out he was telling the truth!
Austin is disappointed, but not bitter about the whole pandemic. He understands what curve balls look like because he has seen many of them through his years, and he knows that although he and his classmates are not going to have the finish to their senior year they envisioned, he looks at the positives, and all the memories made with his classmates, and support from his parents, siblings, teacher’s, coaches and administrators.
“At least I can say I am healthy,” he added.
During the interview, Austin made it a point to also thank his family. His father Steve, mother Karen, brother Devin and sister Kaylen. He said that he valued all of the things he learned from his family, and they were always there for him every step of the way.
Again, I hope you have a chance to watch our discussion, https://youtu.be/iYSJS5sVmFg and as I told Austin, he may want to think about a broadcasting career!
Finally, I just want to say that we SALUTE Austin Siko and the entire Class of 2020 at Derry Area. You will certainly not be forgotten, and we just want you to know that you are appreciated and wish you the very best in your future endeavors.